Spain is a very large country with all kinds of varied attractions and many different regions. Do you want to be by the sea? In a city? Or in the mountains? Want lively nightlife? Or peace and quiet in the remote countryside? Do you want to immerse yourself in Spanish culture, or have plenty of other Brits around?
The Spanish climate
It’s not all sun, sea and sand! Being such a large country, Spain’s climate does vary from region to region. In the North, it has a temperate climate, with mild winters and warm summers. Down South, close to Africa, it can get very hot indeed. Central Spain, far from the modifying effects of the ocean, tends to experience uncomfortable extremes of hot and cold.
Don’t forget, you can ski in the Pyrenees, the Sierra Nevada and even in the area around Madrid.
Get international moving quotes for your move abroad to Spain.
The cost of living in Spain
One of the many perks to relocating to Spain is the cost of living. If you want to eat and live like a local, you’ll find your money can go much further than it does at home. Property is also reasonably priced in comparison, although housing is more expensive in central cities and popular tourist areas.
Utilities costs can be high, especially if bottled gas is required for your property, whilst food is quite reasonably priced if bought outside of tourist and commercial areas.
Work and income
Many expats settling in Spain are retired, but by no means all. Finding a job in Spain will require research; starting your own business will need an even greater amount of thought and planning, and maybe some fact-finding trips. It’s preferable to get things lined up before you go. If you don’t do this, do make sure you have enough money to live in Spain for at least six months while you find a job and establish yourself. As an EU citizen, you won’t need a work permit to find employment but you will need to obtain a social security number to be able to work in Spain – these can be acquired from your local Oficina de Seguridad Social. Your gestor will be able to help you with this if you do not speak Spanish.
If you are moving to Spain and plan to live on your British pension, remember that there will always be fluctuations between the British pound and the Euro. This chart shows you how the value of the pound has sunk against the Euro so you need to be prepared to deal with this.
Speak the lingo
If your Spanish is not good, it would be helpful to enrol on a course before you move to Spain. Obviously there are people who happily live abroad without speaking the language, but even if you are going to be moving to an area with many British expats, such as the Costa del Sol, you will find it helpful and get much more out of your new life if you have learned Spanish before you arrive, especially if you are intending to find a job. Quite apart from facilitating your job search and making new friends amongst the locals, it will enable you to deal more efficiently with all necessary bureaucracy and allow you to travel to less touristy areas.
If you can’t manage the time for evening classes or lessons, why not try an audio or online course? The BBC runs some useful, quick lessons in Spanish.
Get a gestor
A gestor is not a licensed professional, but a clerk with experience and good contacts. While not a property solicitor or an accountant, he can do some of the work of these. His main role is the liaison between you, a member of the public, and the Spanish administration. The relatively low fees are well worth it for the amount of hassle that will be saved in all your dealings with Spanish administration. Ask around as word of mouth is the best way to find a good one. There is also some useful information about gestors on this website: http://www.spainexpat.com/spain/information/the_gestor_gestoria/
Healthcare in Spain
Spain has a national health service which provides free or low cost healthcare to which you are entitled if you are an EU resident. If you are registered to work in Spain and make National Insurance contributions, you will be eligible for the state-run health care on the same basis as a Spanish national. If you are a temporary visitor to Spain, you’ll need to take an EHIC card (apply here: https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/home.do). Be careful not to use a website that charges you for this service; the EHIC card is free to British citizens.
If you are going to want private healthcare, check the terms of your current health insurance (if any) in the UK, which will probably only cover you for a short period away from home.
For those taking an early retirement to Spain, it is important to note that from July 1st 2014 the NHS stopped reimbursing medical costs incurred by non-working Britons under pensionable age in other European states. Before your move, find out what healthcare options are available in the Spanish region you are moving to. You may be required to buy private health cover. If you already hold a residual S1 in readiness to your move to Spain, the changes will not affect you until your current form expires.
Spanish NIE numbers
Although you do not need a visa to enter Spain, you will need to obtain an NIE number upon your arrival. An NIE is a tax identification number issued by the National Police of Spain. It is a legal requirement in Spain for anyone who is working, wants to open a bank account or buying or selling a property or even a car. In fact, it is generally used as a means of identification (although it has no photo id). So chances are you’ll need one.
To buy a property in Spain, you will need to get an NIE number.
Once issued, the number is yours for life. Strictly speaking these need to be applied for in person but you can apply via your local Spanish consulate before you leave. There are firms offering to act as your representative to organise this prior to your arrival in Spain.
Buying a property
Be sure to get good advice if buying in Spain. To avoid misunderstanding, it is important (unless your Spanish is fluent or you hire a translator) that your advisor has excellent command of Spanish as well as English. Select a conveyancing solicitor that specialises in Spanish land law, as the system there is different from ours in many ways. For example, when buying property, you’ll need to make out a will to cover disposal of Spanish assets in the event of your death. You may also be liable for any debts associated with the previous owner.
To be able to ship your belongings into Spain, you will need the following documentation:
For the definitions of the international moving terms you will encounter during this experience, take a look at our Moving Glossary.
It is recommended that you discuss the customs documentation and regulations necessary for your move to Spain with your removal company, as they will be able to guide you through the process.
Prohibited and restricted Items
Before you select what goods you’ll be taking with you to your new home abroad, it is important that you make yourself aware of the items prohibited from entering Spanish shores.
Prohibited items include:
Firearms and weapons
Explosives and ammunitions
Narcotics and illegal drugs
Products made from protected species
Cleaning fluids, paints and other toxic materials
There can also be duty taxes and restrictions on items that you may wish to transport to Spain, including alcohol, tobacco and inherited household goods. Your overseas removal firm will have the experience and knowledge to advise you in full on what can and can’t be taken when you move to Spain.
Transit - For European moves to Spain, the most common method of household goods transportation is by road. It is important to remember that, if you are moving to a city, there may be the issue of narrow streets, parking regulations and difficult access, so make sure you select an expert, professional removal company for your overseas house move and discuss with them any potential problems.
Direct Loads - In a direct load, the removal vehicle will contain exclusively your goods. This is the more expensive option as it allows you to specify a delivery date. Your removal company will transport your belongings directly to your new property to arrive on the day most convenient for you.
Part Loads - If your items do not fill the removals vehicle or you have a limited budget, a part load would be a cost-effective option. Part loads involve your goods sharing a vehicle with those of other movers. Unlike the direct load, the departure of your consignment from the UK will be delayed until all the multiple loads have been consolidated and the vehicle is full, so it may take up to a few weeks before your goods arrive. You won’t be able to select a delivery date, but your removal firm will provide you with a delivery window and, once the removal vehicle has set off, a more specific date of arrival.
Furniture - You’ll need to find an experienced international removal company to ensure the safe transportation of your belongings when you move to Spain. They will be familiar with local customs and duty regulations and can advise you on any restrictions and on what documentation is required. For instance, used household goods may be duty free if you can prove that you have owned them for a minimum of six months (from UK and other EU countries), and if they arrive in Spain no later than six months after you. If you are importing new furniture that has a value of over €3000, an Import Licence will be required.
It is suggested that you get your removal company to conduct a pre-move survey of your items to discuss which transportation option would be more suitable for your budget and requirements. For more information about the differences between part loads and direct load shipping, our advice article can help.
Bear in mind it will take from several days to a few weeks for your consignment to reach you, so it may be worth sending the important items by air freight or, if you are driving there, taking them with you in the car to ensure you have them available when you reach your destination. Due to its speed and convenience, air freight is a much more expensive option, so if you do decide to ship goods by air it should be constrained to small, high priority items.
Do your research
There is no shortage of advice online for people planning to move to Spain – many have gone before you and stories of their triumphs and failures are rife. Get as much information as you can to make sure that you are one of the successes! Take a look at our helpful article outlining 11 essential tips for a successful move abroad.
The UK Foreign Office has an excellent website with more details on moving to Spain.